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Author Topic: Game Design Inspired By Visual Aesthetics?  (Read 969 times)
chronoplasm
Member

Posts: 286

Kevin Vito


« on: April 15, 2010, 03:43:42 PM »

So I'm an art student looking into getting a career in commercial illustration. You can see some of my stuff at my deviant art page. I want to do art for games. I don't really conform to the art styles that I see in most game books though (though I probably should, if I want to get a job.) Rather, I make art for the kinds of games I want to play. I make art for the kinds of games I would even like to design if only had the time and resources. I want games that I can display proudly. If I were to actually see a game design through from beginning to end, I would want the end result to look great on people's coffee tables. I would want the gameplay to have a strong visual appeal. I want everything on the game table to look great. When people walk by the table at a convention, I would want them to pause and say "What kind of game are those guys playing?"

How much influence should visual design have over the rules-set though? Can "make it look fun to play" be part of a game designer's creative agenda?
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Vulpinoid
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Kitsune Trickster


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« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2010, 02:29:11 AM »

I've added you to my DeviantWatch.

I know what you mean though, there are some brilliantly crafted games out there which look spectacular...that's also the kind of game I strive to make.

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
mjbauer
Member

Posts: 115


« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2010, 09:01:35 PM »

I'm with you. I am very much a visual person as well (I've got a BFA in graphic design). I really want a game to be designed well, to have consistent art and to have a visual representation for as many things as possible. I especially think that most RPG texts could benefit a great deal from using visuals to teach how game processes work. I noticed the illustration you did on Deviant Art showing the steps to character creation. I think it's a great idea.

I think that most RPG designers consider themselves writers so that's what they do when it comes to making a game. I think more (well designed) diagrams, illustrations and charts would really help explain complicated rules.

I have always been impressed by games that use plain paper for character sheets, 3x5 cards as game aids, etc. but in all honesty I would walk right past that table uninterested at a convention. 
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mjbauer = Micah J Bauer
Mobius
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2010, 09:14:59 PM »

Love your art.

I think visual design can serve as inspiration for a game which could, and should, be reflected in the rules and setting. However I think most of the time artwork is one of that last things to go into a game.
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Mobius a.k.a Charles
Jeff Russell
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« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2010, 02:42:51 AM »

Good stuff on your page, and I can definitely see how a fun game could be inspired by your style!

I think that right now the issue is that a) there are fewer self-taught artists than self-taught game designers, and b) the overlap is even smaller. Also, I know that for a lot of artists (my own poorly self-taught self included) can come up with ideas more easily when given guidelines to work in (the whole 'restrictions breed creativity' thing). So, I think these things have combined to generally make it easier to go "make a game, find an artist, get some illustrations for it from the artist."

That being said, I would *love* to see what sort of game came from a visual aesthetic first approach! I don't even know what that would be! Maybe you could find a partner, hand him (or her) a stack of pictures and say "make a game that fits these things". Or maybe character sketches have a mechanical effect. Or the rules focus on composition, proportion, and perspective. I don't know! But it's different enough that I'm sure it would give people a new way of looking at things they take for granted (much in keeping with indie game design).

Did you have any specific ideas on how to accomplish this, or was this more "I'd like to see indie games with higher production values?"

-Jeff Russell
http://dicegods.wordpress.com
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Vulpinoid
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Kitsune Trickster


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« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2010, 05:38:25 AM »

That being said, I would *love* to see what sort of game came from a visual aesthetic first approach! I don't even know what that would be! Maybe you could find a partner, hand him (or her) a stack of pictures and say "make a game that fits these things".

You mean something like this?

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
chronoplasm
Member

Posts: 286

Kevin Vito


« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2010, 09:03:39 AM »

Did you have any specific ideas on how to accomplish this, or was this more "I'd like to see indie games with higher production values?"

-Jeff Russell
http://dicegods.wordpress.com

I don't have any specific ideas, but I have a grab-bag of little unconnected ideas.
A few of these ideas:

As I was making 'Mooks in a Motorboat' I thought to myself
"These little guys would make for great characters in a game. What system would I run for these mooks?"

While I was working in my color theory class, I thought to myself
"How can I incorporate this into game design? What sort of game could I make where character creation involves using the color wheel to select a color scheme for your character?
(Choose: Monochromatic, Analogous, Complementary, Split-Complementary, Tetradic.)
(Choose: Colors within your chosen scheme.)

A friend of mine is drawing all the demons of the Ars Goetia in a cute Pokemon style. I think these would be great for playing cards. What sort of rpg could incorporate a deck of playing cards depicting the Ars Goetia demons?

The newest edition of D&D uses miniatures on a map like a tactical wargame. In oldschool D&D, miniatures were often only used for indicating marching order. What are some other creative ways in which miniatures can be used?

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Jeff Russell
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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2010, 11:07:36 AM »

V: That's a really cool project! How long has it been going on, and have the entries fulfilled your hopes for weird and wonderful and inspired by the visuals?

chronoplasm: Some good ideas there! Let me try to riff off them, and let me know what you think:

Color theory: I especially like this, because I'm a big fan of color theory. You could use the saturation and hue as dials to set the 'mood' for the setting. What would be really wacky would be a way to use the color wheel as part of resolution. Maybe some kind of karma mechanic where, I don't know, two players with skills rated in complimentary colors get more effect than those who aren't. Or else you have players describe the color of their action in writing, and then compare, and higher saturation makes that action more effective but narrow, whereas a desaturated more neutral color action is more general and flexible. I don't know, I'm just trying to come up with things that are as out there as I can. With your "actual art training" you probably have more to work with.

As for the miniatures, one simple use would be to get assigned a random miniature and then make up a character from it. With the highly iconic type of miniatures D&D is putting out these days, you might not get very interesting results, but perhaps that's part of being the GM or organizer, or whatever: selecting evocative miniatures that will inspire interesting characters. Another technique to import from wargames is the notion that your miniature must depict whatever your character is equipped with and be changed to show aging or wounds or what not. Probably more for dedicated miniature hobbyists than your average roleplayer, but it can be fun.

And finally, as you said with the Ars Goetia cards: the old fashioned association of art that fits the mood of a game is still a good one, and recently we've seen lots of variety in the art available for games. As a slightly out-of-date example, the game "Teenagers From Outer Space" by R. Talsorian Games totally changed it's feel and approach when they decided to co-opt the anime craze and repurpose it from an 80's movie inspired game to an anime inspired game.
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Vulpinoid
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Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster


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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2010, 05:27:26 PM »

Honestly Jeff, no it hasn't garnered the kind of interest I had hoped for.

A dozen people commented that they'd be interested before I started it.

I've got a handful of people who've actually joined the Google group, I don't know how many people will finish (if any).

But I'm realistic, that's pretty common for a lot of design contests. People have a lot going on with their real world.

As for the relations between gaming and a colour theory analogy, I've been meaning to get into that with my blog. It's something I've thought long and hard about over the years (I come from a background in industrial design and commercial art). There's some good mining to be had in those parts and I'm sure a couple of gaming gems will be dug up by the right person who's willing to put in the effort.
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Jeff Russell
Member

Posts: 44


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« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2010, 11:15:10 AM »

That's a shame that the contest isn't doing better, but you're right, real world concerns are annoyingly invasive, and when it comes to creative endeavors, sometimes someone else giving you a starting point and a reason to go after it is all you need, other times people are using up all their creative juices on their own thing.

That being said, do you have any preliminary ideas on where to go with this color theory stuff? I'm entirely self-taught when it comes to art, so I was mostly talking out of my ass. I'd be interested to see what someone with a more detailed grasp of color theory and other formal art theory might bring to the gaming theory table. Pictionary and Dragons? Smiley
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Vulpinoid
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Posts: 803

Kitsune Trickster


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« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2010, 01:58:15 PM »

Over the last 12 months I've actually been working on a roleplaying game theory that I call "Vector Theory". It's based on an analogy comparing a story to a beam of light, then applying optical physics to the path of that beam in the same way that a roleplaying game applies game mechanisms to the story.

If you leave it alone, a story/beam will continue traveling in a straight line. If you put mirrors in the way of the story/beam, you deflect it in a premeditated way. If you focus the beam through a series of lenses, you have a tendency to divert it to a specific point (this might be a climax, or a specific scene along the story).

Colour theory emerges with some of the deeper concepts in the thory. If you pass the story/beam through a coloured filter, then the sory becomes tinted by that form of experience.

Let's work with a hypothetical situation where combat equals red, puzzles equal blue and social play equals green.

Party 1: A bunch of players makes a balanced party...their starting beam of light is a balanced mix of the RGB colours...therefore white, but not very bright because of the mixture.
Party 2: A bunch of players just want to solve puzzles...their starting beam of light is purely blue, and very bright for this colour.
Party 3: A bunch of players make up their characters, mostly social types and some combatants. In additive colours, this makes their starting beam of light somewhere between red and green, but closer to red...therefore orange (and reasonably bright).

Challenge put forward to the characters cause the story to pass through correspondingly coloured filters.

Test 1: A complex puzzle (blue filter).
  Party 1: Starting with a dull white beam, pass fairly easily through the situation (it might take them a bit of effort because their party isn't specifically tailored to this type of play). But their perception of the game will probably shift...they've encountered a puzzle so they'll expect more puzzles to arise. Their beam of light might take on a more bluish colour as they adjust their characters for puzzle solving obstacles.
  Party 2: With a purely blue beam they pass through the situation as though it isn't even there. They are already optimised for puzzle solving play, so no changes for their beam.
  Party 3: With no blue in their beam, they perceive the colour filter to be an impassable obstacle. Either their beam is reflected in a completely different direction, or their story ends here.

Test 2: A tense negotiation between two factions on the brink of a fight (Yellow Filter with 2 possible outcomes).
   Party 1: There are a few options available to this group. Because they start with a white beam, they can see that there is a social (green) way through, or a combative (red) path. Depending on the path they take, 
  Party 2: Being purely intellectual (blue), this situation leaves them dumbfounded. Let's hope they have kept a way open to back out.
  Party 3: This party sees the options available. For them, the violent red path would present no real obstacle, and it would probably cement their status within the game as warriors. They don't have as much power when pursuing the diplomatic green path, so this would be a bit more complicated for them (but still possible).

This is just an example of how colour theory would work with respect to game design theory. I would tailor the colours to the specific types of play that a game claims to produce, the types of situation potentially encountered through the game. The more focused a character is toward a specific play type, the more their beam of light is colour focused to that wavelength. The group as a whole is defined by the addition of all the character wavelengths. The obstacles met along the path of a story are similarly defined by colour combinations...the easier an obstacle is to pass through, the clearer it's filter...and if an obstacle is easier to pass with a specific strategy or play type, it starts to be coloured according to that wavelength.

I could go a whole lot deeper with this, but there's not much point repeating all the posts of my blog here. The Vector Theory stuff starts in January 2010, but I warn you, it's a pretty dense slog through some of the preliminary posts.

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Jeff Russell
Member

Posts: 44


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« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2010, 03:03:10 AM »

V,

   That sounds pretty interesting. I'll have to check out your blog, as I'm always hungry for more theory discussion (hence the being here and all). Has this theory given you any game mechanic crafting insights, or is that handled in your blog as well?
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
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